Montclair weighs in on subject of school rankings
By ERIN ROLL
Every year the ratings and rankings are released: the best colleges, the best high schools. And every year the debate is renewed: Do these rankings really count for anything?
The answer in Montclair: not much.
Montclair High School was recently rated the 29th best public high school in New Jersey by Niche.com, a Pittsburgh-based data website that specializes in rankings of schools and colleges. U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 rankings of public high schools put Montclair High at 63rd best in the state, and 1,813th in the country.
The U.S. News list includes 424 New Jersey high schools.
Niche ranks Montclair Kimberley Academy as the 10th-best private high school in the state.
But many people question whether rankings, regardless of how high or low, actually mean anything for the schools.
Board of Education member Anne Mernin said that she doesn’t give much weight to school ranking lists.
Montclair is a community with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, Mernin said, and it is that diversity that prompts many parents to move to the town with their children. “I just think we need to look holistically at our schools,” Mernin said. “We always have to look at the whole person coming through our doors, and we have to look at the whole person leaving.”
Laura Hertzog, BOE president, doesn’t put much stock in rankings either.
The lists “may or may not be based on key indicators that our district considers important,” she said in an email. “I tend to think that we (and other school districts) should focus on what our values and measures of success are, and grade ourselves on how well we meet those, rather than getting too high or too low based on these external measures of validation.”
But Andrea Webb, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, said that school rankings are a top priority for families house-hunting in Montclair.
“Aside from commuting times, school rankings are one of the most important criteria home buyers research when investigating towns in which to live,” she said on Monday. “This is certainly something that they pay attention to.
“A lot of people look at the cumulative info. If it’s positive from different sources, that helps,” Webb said.
Mernin said she thought it would be interesting if the media sources doing the rankings were to speak to students who were two or four years out of high school, and ask what their experiences had been like.
Niche.com gave Montclair High School an A+ rating for academics, teachers, college prep and health and safety; an A for clubs and activities, administration and sports, an A- for diversity and food service, and a B+ for resources and facilities. The site claims that the data for the rankings comes from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Education website.